The South African sign language interpreter accused of making up gibberish during Nelson Mandela’s funeral said that he may have suffered from a schizophrenic episode while on stage.
34-year-old Thamsanqa Jantjie blames the gestures that made no sense to deaf people around the world on voices in his head and hallucinations.
He did not know what triggered the attack, Jantjie added, saying he took medication for his schizophrenia.
Millions of TV viewers saw Jantjie interpreting Tuesday at the Mandela memorial attended by leaders from around the world, but South Africa’s leading deaf association on Wednesday denounced him as a fake, saying he was inventing signs.
However, in a radio interview, Jantjie said he was happy with his performance at the memorial to the anti-apartheid hero, who died a week ago at age 95. “Absolutely, absolutely. I think that I’ve been a champion of sign language,” he told Talk Radio 702.
Experts observing Jantjie’s performance said the signer did not know even badic signs such as “thank you” or “Mandela.”
South Africa’s government, which was in charge of the mass memorial along with the African National Congress said they had no idea who he was. Footage from two large ANC events held last year showed Jantjie signing on stage next to President Jacob Zuma.
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